Robert James' Logo

Chapter 5

Storyteller

Cowboys in silhouette playing instruments. The cover photo for the Continuing Adventures of Meet The Blacks.

Read Chapter: 1, 2, 3, 4 ...

Chapter 5 - The Continuing Adventures Of Meet The Blacks

Astrid Mueller sat back down to watch the station feed for the third time. Los Angeles was ass over tea kettle. And this band, Meet The Blacks, were the cause of it all. And it quietly blew her mind. This was fast becoming her town and she knew the trends. She also watched all the charts. She knew the musical tastes of the town. But she had never seen anything like this. A sophisticated mix of glam, metal, hard rock, gangsta, rap, and whatever other genres she could think of, neither she nor anyone else could ever have predicted this. A goddamn hayseed cowboy band from Canada had turned America upside down. And she was delighted! She had made notes. Bill Junger, the station manager at KTR13 called her earlier that day and said he was sending a tape over. The first time the goddamn thing aired the station switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree. And it’s been like that for two days. Two days! The calls hadn’t stopped.

She was sceptical when she first put the disc into the DVD player. Two minutes into the performance she was hooked. No wonder people were watching this six times in a row. The thing was, you had to watch it six times. Whichever band member your eyes first locked on, that’s the one you couldn’t tear your eyes away from for the entire performance. And the simple joy of it. Station 9 only used two cameras, a nice tight focus of the entire band. Another one just far enough back to catch the first two rows of the audience. What she saw was controlled mayhem. The crowd was eating this up like it was candy. Even a pair of edible panties had been thrown, for christ’s sake.

She had phoned Bill back after the first viewing and asked him where the feed had originated from. He had to spell it out for her, he couldn’t pronounce it. She had hastily scribbled it out on her notepad. Big black letters delivered by a sharpie. W-E-T-A-S-K-I-W-I-N. Wet A Ski Win? Alpine country? No wonder Bill had spelled it out. It was a mouthful. And what state were they from? It turned out there weren’t states in Canada at all. They were called provinces and territories. This one was a province. Alberta. Like the song from the Clapton Unplugged disc. And from a little local studio somewhere near the middle of the state. Sorry, province. A station that called itself Channel 9. How quaint.

Jett awoke in the bathtub with dried blood caked to the back of his head. Dried blood on his forehead and on the sides of his face. Hours earlier he had tossed the empty bottle of Jack in the recycle bin and staggered off to bed to sleep it off. But a quick stop to the bathroom first. He lost his balance while trying to unzip his fly to pee. His legs buckled and hit the edge of the tub. He fell into the tub with a loud crash, the back of his head narrowly missing the faucet. He fell with such force that it knocked him unconscious. A few inches to the left and this story would have been over. So, awake now; Jett struggled for a bit, trying to get out of the tub. It would’ve been a lot easier if he wasn’t wearing his shoots. He called them shoots. Half boot, half shoe, Demi boots? Shoots. His father used to call them Jet boots. Like the pilots in the fifties and sixties wore when they were testing fighter planes. When Jett was younger he would have to polish those boots every time the old man had a gig. His father never got tired of saying “Jett, go get my Jets.

He was still slip-sliding around the tub but he was finally gaining ground. An old song played in his head. Tigers on vaseline? A song Dusty had played for him once. David Bowie? Like the Bowie knife. He didn’t listen to this style of music much but this phrase was stuck in his head like the redo dream. He refused to call it the Wendy dream. During their first few shows the band actually looked like tigers on vaseline. They floundered around, competent but just growing as a band. Finding each other. Finding their sea legs. Trying to wipe that nasty vaseline stuff from the stage floor.

Astrid was now into her fifth viewing of the disc. She had paused it halfway through the fourth sitting to call the little station in Canada. The little station that did. She couldn’t get much information from the station receptionist. But she was told that there had been other calls. A lot of other calls. Mostly from her neck of the woods. This lit a fire under her ass. There were two numbers for the band. The receptionist told her that the station had finally reached someone at the second number. If she called she should ask for Beaverdell. Beaverdell? Yes, Beaverdell. Could the nice receptionist spell the name for her please? After she hung up she looked at the name and telephone number on her notepad. What the hell kind of name was Beaverdell? Was it named after some kind of fur hat they wore around in the winter? Was it like a surname? Beaverdell Lou, hold on for a minute. Or, hey baby, love your Beaverdell. Oh thanks, just got it yesterday. Half of them probably still lived in igloos. At least she thought they were called igloos. You know, those little white houses made out of ice. She wondered how they could fit inside those places with their big parkas and all. And Beaverdells. She hit the pause button on her remote and the band was back in action.

She had been making notes, fielding calls about other clients. She hadn’t really given the disc the scrutiny it deserved. This fifth time around was much better. One thing was certain. The band had to ditch the fat guy. She had made up her mind about him. But that changed when their one and only slow song came on. The house lights dimmed and the audience hushed. A song about a cowgirl and a yellow coyote. The fat guy was off to the side of the stage with a thin spotlight on him. He moved fluidly and effortlessly from the piano to the pedal steel guitar and then to the harmonica. And he sang. She noticed how the vocals shimmered when he added his lines. And when the lead singer guy sang the line “when she was just seventeen, she was a rodeo queen” she started crying. The lonelys had just found her. She hadn’t cried in years. Overwhelmed, she shut off the television and went to bed. Not even time for the make-up remover. She would call the number first thing in the morning.

Inner torment. Throbbing head. The redo dream. During his time away from reality, Jett was a mess. There were empty whiskey bottles everywhere. He vaguely recalled going to the liquor store and knew he had to be sober doing it. Duty. And the graveyard across the street? Had he really been there? And so many days of drinking heavily while listening to Toby Beau on the headphones up high. And silently sobbing. His drinking pace never slowed. When he’d awaken sober he’d have to gamble on the time. An empty bottle at 2:00 am meant no more liquor until 11:00 am. After he had warded off his first set of shakes from running out at precisely that time, his timing got better. A professional. Duty. His schedule, had it been on paper, would now look something like this; liquor store, living room, side table, bottles, glass, stereo, Toby Beau, headphones, and couch. Oh, and three pictures of Wendy. The redo dreams of Wendy? They had returned with a vengeance and one thing was certain, the booze only made it worse. So he undressed, and took off his boots this time and climbed back into the tub. He hit the shower knob. The dreams could keep coming, he would tolerate them as best he could. He was letting go. He snickered. The great cosmic betrayal. An hour later he was at the band house.

Rusty was the first to notice him as he walked through the door. He rushed right over and gave Jett a big hug. Both of them grinned from ear to ear. Jett was the first to speak. “It smells great in here, which one of you learned how to cook?” They both burst out laughing. Just then Darla walked over. “Jett, this is Darla.” “Darla, this is Jett”. They shook hands and then she checked on the chicken in the oven. The two cousins made their way into the jam room. Beaverdell was talking on the phone. And whoever was on the other end of the line was making a very big impression. He turned, phone to ear, and motioned Jett over hurriedly. “Can I put you on pause for a second?” Beaverdell asked the party on the other end. He put his hand over the mouthpiece and whispered to Jett.“Don’t go anywhere.” Then he turned and continued talking.

A few minutes later he was bouncing up and down on the love seat. “Who wants to play the Hockey arenas in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver to sold out shows? The four of them, Darla included, raised their hands. “And who wants to play Seattle, Vancouver Washington, Portland and San Fransisco?” Again, a great show of hands. “And who wants to play the L.A. Forum to a sold out house?” No surprises. “And finally, who wants to play the Whiskey for three sold out shows?” A shout erupted from all. WE DO!

And so for the first time ever, Jett had dinner at the band house. Everyone was in fine spirits. There was a nice checkered tablecloth on the table. There was a taper candle in the middle. A candle! And the chicken dish Darla had prepared was amazing. During the course of the evening Jett was brought up to speed on everything that had happened so far. Plus he got to know Darla a little better. And he couldn’t help noticing how Rusty acted around her. She was good for him, he marvelled to himself. And he knew Rusty. He would be good for her as well. After the meal the four of them retired to the living room to watch the taping. Again. Poor Darla. Rusty had subjected her to watching it over and over. She didn’t mind that one bit. Sure, it took a few viewings before she could watch Rhett on the big screen without cringing but she was well past that now. So for the next hour and a half they dissected the performance. And Darla felt like family. She was the first one Jett asked. “What do you think Darla?” Then Rusty. “Do I look good in that shirt, Darla?”

The conversation then shifted to this Astrid woman. Beaverdell said she asked a lot of questions. She couldn’t come to them. Could they come to her? At one point she had asked Beaverdell for the address to the band house. But only because she wanted to talk business. Beaverdell told her decisions this big had to be agreed upon by the whole band. They had reached a stalemate. That old Mexican stand-off had reared its ugly head once again. When she asked him for the address the second time he gave it to her. The last thing she said to him was to check the mailbox in the morning. Bye.

Then Jett asked about the missing Blacks. Rhett and Dusty. Rusty remarked that Dusty had been home earlier and had played his bass for an hour or so before heading out. Dusty would be back later. All cool on that front. And Rhett had called Beaverdell this morning asking where Jett was. But they hadn’t seen him for a few days. As Beaverdell was taking a drink from his glass of milk, Jett spoke in his finest lucky charms accent. ”Where is that Rhett anyway?” Beaverdell choked on his milk sending white streams through his nostrils and onto his t-shirt. Soon everyone was laughing uproariously. Just before leaving Jett took Darla aside as he was putting his boots on. Sorry, shoots. The floors sparkled now. He looked her in the eyes and then spoke softly. “You’re good for him. I’ve never seen Rusty happier. One thing though, don’t leave that boy sleeping on the couch for too long.” Jett had noticed the blankets and pillows on the far side of the couch. And with that he kissed her on the forehead and walked out into the night.

Astrid cursed herself as she hung up from her conversation with that Beaverdell guy. She had made contact but little was still known. Was there a Beaverdell style hat? Who was who? Did they ride horses? Well, they were a cowboy band. She imagined them all with six-guns a’blazing. Delightful! A cowboy video, how quaint. She looked at the clock on the marble mantle. She’d better hurry. So she went down the list. An hour later her mail boy was at her door. “Take this package down to Sal at the front desk and tell him 9:00 am delivery. If it’s not there on time the pair of you can start looking for a new job. Thank-you.” She slammed the door. Young Steve walked down the hall and then muttered something quietly as the elevator door closed behind him. “Did she just say thank-you?”

Astrid was pleased with herself. All done. That had not taken long at all. Why weren’t men as efficient as she was? Puppy dogs. She thought about last night’s dream. She was riding on a horse in a field somewhere and the fat guy from the show was on the horse next to her. Except the fat guy didn’t seem that fat in the dream. And now it kind of turned her on. She would ask this Beaverdell character about the fat guy in the morning. And about the hat. Maybe if she tried hard the dream would come back tonight. But only if the fat guy was the skinnier fat guy. The fat fat guy just wouldn’t do. She’d rather ride off into the sunset alone …

xo RJ

Previous